The scent of revolution is impossible to miss. It’s like a cross between the metallic tang of an unspent penny interspersed with notes of freshly mowed grass and Stormi Jenner’s forehead. In other words, it smells like newness in its most intense and promising form.
I caught a whiff of it in the aisle of a Duane Reade in March 2017, but I couldn’t tell from where it was coming. I sniffed it again on the headrest of my chair in a movie theater the month after that. Mysterious! It wasn’t until the beginning of May that I finally detected its source after inhaling a particularly strong gust via my Instagram feed, where an image of Frederikke Sofie washing her face had popped up on my screen. The top of her head practically pulsed with the aroma, and when I looked closer I saw it: a scrunchie.
After that I smelled it everywhere and every day, but that’s probably because I started wearing scrunchies on the regular and thus the back of my ponytail became a mobile diffuser. I felt bold and filled with conviction, like a pioneer tilling soil except instead of turning over dirt I was turning over misconceptions.
In the years since Carrie Bradshaw sentenced scrunchies to the purgatory of fashion faux pas with her fateful proclamation in Season 6, Episode 4 of Sex and the City that no “hip downtown” New York woman would be caught dead wearing a scrunchie, the humble fabric-coated hair elastic has been living in shadow…until now.
Scroll down to witness five New York women who would gladly be caught dead OR alive wearing a scrunchie. Like I said, the scent of revolution is in the air. It’s time to breathe it in. -Harling Ross
Leandra Medine, Man Repeller Founder
“Back when the only people I could communicate with were two ESL parents, they referred to the scrunchie as a “toka,” which you have to say like this — tttttoe-kah, to understand the full impact. When I got to kindergarten, I was trying to make new friends and complimented another girl’s toka. She had no clue what I was talking about but taught me how to say scrunchie. We made fast friends and, from that day forward, I knew my mission as a wearer was philosophically tied up in teaching fellow users about the merit of the toka’s ability to generate companionship.
I worry that the history of the scrunchie has been co-opted because of characters like Full House’s Kimmy Gibbler, particularly because she had a tendency to wear the hair piece recklessly and futilely. Frankly, the scrunchie brings an important value to the table in that it efficiently holds your hair back without creating creases in it. They’re much softer than standard hair ties and obviously add a flair that regular hair ties just can’t. Call them an instant-accessory, whatever. Philosophically, to me, they’re still tokas and a cornerstone of platonic intimacy.
I’ve mulled how scrunchies make me feel quite a bit, and I think the simple answer is effervescent. Suffice it to say I disagree with Carrie’s assertion and in fact have grown to resent it.”
“I started wearing scrunchies last year, when I realized they weren’t hideous. I think what originally turned me off were the white, red, and navy sets of cotton ribbed ones they would sell at my local Dollar Store in upstate New York. They were puny and lackluster. To me, scrunchies didn’t seem like a stylistic choice; they were more like the absence of any sartorial sense. It may sound harsh, but back then, there was nothing appealing about them to me. I just couldn’t understand them. How wrong I was.
Everything changed this winter when I bought an oversized, baby pink, suede puffer jacket, the kind of marshmallowy outerwear that demands accessories that are equally carefree and lush. After I bought the puffer, I darted back to my dorm to borrow my best friend’s gold scrunchie — I believe she got it from American Apparel for a Halloween costume, or maybe just for shits and giggles. Nevertheless, a look was pulled.
The goal of looking good, chic or sexy has often made looking cute seem like a consolation prize. But that day I realized that, with the right styling, scrunchies have the ability to make you look and feel goddamn adorable and there’s no shame in that. No shame at all, no matter what Carrie Bradshaw said. People say you’re not a real New Yorker until you’ve lived here for 10 years; I’m about halfway there, technically speaking, but I’d wager I’m even further thanks to my scrunchie.”
“My hair isn’t full of secrets, it’s full of scrunchies. They’re soft, they’re practical, they’re unique — a safety blanket in miniature form. Each one is a memory unto itself, from my puffy velveteen number that was handmade in France to the pack of tiny polyester ones I ordered on Amazon Prime. I considered building a glass display case above my bed, but I prefer sleeping with them like stuffed animals instead for ultimate grab-and-go companionship.
I’ve traversed the streets of Manhattan for 26 years, thrown snowballs in Central Park, climbed to the top of the Statue of Liberty, retrieved a fallen Swedish Fish out of a Lexington Avenue trash can and eaten it, handed out brochures in Times Square, changed in the back of a taxi cab, dislodged approximately 16 sticks of gum from the bottom of my shoes, moved into four different apartments and danced on precisely one tabletop. I am a New York woman, born and raised, and I wear scrunchies. In fact, they make me feel like New York royalty.”
“Scrunchies are like tutus for your hair.
I didn’t give them their due credit for years, which is a shame, and I think about this with some sort of remorse every single day. The truth is that while scrunchies used to remind me of face washes and sleep buns, they also reminded me of the time I modeled in a Limited Too fashion show at my local mall in San Francisco and was gifted a pink-and-white striped scrunchie to pair with a pink-and-white striped hoodie as a thank you. I lost the hoodie a few months later, got in trouble as a result, was haunted by the presence of the scrunchie that stuck around, and for the years that followed I had a hard time looking at scrunchies — any scrunchie — without being reminded of that formative moment in my childhood.
As the eighties began its recent resurgence in the fashion industry, however, I began to soften toward the soft hair accessories. They made me nostalgic. I longed for my youth and the carefree attitude that comes with the scrunchie’s fluff, not to mention the lack of crease I’d never forgotten.
I finally purchased a pack while on a hair tie trip to CVS, began using them whenever my hair needed a hug, and I’m happy to report I haven’t looked back since.”
“A wise man once told me, ‘You can realize a lot in a moment,’ which perfectly defines how I feel about my core-shaking discovery of scrunchies. A friend let me borrow hers when I was in a hair tie pinch. It was rendered in faux fur, soft enough to snuggle with. I initially found it adorable, maybe even a little funny, but as soon as I placed it around my thick ponytail, the veil lifted on my ignorance. I immediately bought five.
How could I have missed the utility, the beauty, the utter versatility of the scrunchie? They make buns, ponytails and wrists look like chic party animals; they are accessories unto themselves, like bangs; they hold my mop back better than any wimpy hair tie ever did; and they never cause a kink. I can wear them in the morning while I wash my face, to lunch, to work. If I ever got invited to a gala, I’d have no qualms about wearing a scrunchie to it.
The possibilities are infinite, really, and that’s quite a feat considering all I needed to seize them were the five America dollars I used to purchase a pack on Amazon. I’m never looking back. Except, of course, to show off my scrunchie.”
Photos by Edith Young